Loving Through Imperfect Hospitality

The heart of imperfect hospitality is offered in love, to encourage and give comfort. Hospitality doesn’t come easy, but it isn’t difficult…

What a blessing to spend time, share life and discuss adventures when we gather with others! Afterward, we wonder why don’t I spend more time enjoying company? It’s easy to get caught up in our daily routine and miss life-enriching moments. A nagging “To Do” List captivates our attention. Making preparations for having company isn’t always on the list.

Hospitality doesn’t come easy, but it isn’t difficult. Perceived urgency of things we need to do weighs heavily on us. We feel overwhelmed with everything on our plate. Adding a new thing displaces something else already planned. Because we make hospitality grander then it needs to be in our heads, we keep ourselves from enjoying more beautiful moments in our lives.

Opportunities to show gracious hospitality arise when we cross paths with others. It may be as simple as warmly welcoming someone to an event or engaging in conversation. A kind introduction helps newcomers join an ongoing conversation.

Sometimes hospitality opportunities are dropped in our laps. Our latest experience was having family live with us for almost 1-1/2 years. This indeed was a time for imperfect hospitality in action because it was impromptu hosting from beginning to end!

If you had family (or others) living with you during the pandemic and worked full-time, you remember the drill. Each day brought changing protocols, new mandates, dwindling food supplies and staples impacting households everywhere. (Who knew toilet paper was so valuable?) Maybe like us, you felt the increased weight of responsibility for providing for those under your roof as shortages continued. We all pressed on through those uncertain days.

We had “company” when our youngest son and his new wife lived with us during the pandemic. For 16 months running, all efforts were made to help them settle in comfortably. With our family’s work and school schedule, my main focus was gathering nightly for a family meal. This gave us the opportunity to spend some personal time away from pressing matters.

We had 3 reasons for planning our daily family evening meal:

  1. It is our family’s tradition.
  2. Gathering gave us a space of time together.
  3. This would likely be one of the last times we could spend time together in such an intimate, meaningful way.

Meshing schedules proved challenging. For the first 9 months of sheltering in, I was the last one awake (in the wee hours) finishing things needing to be done; and the first one up in the early morning, setting up for the day.

For 4 months I worked full-time, as I prepared for a speaking conference. After putting in 8-9 hours straight through the day, I spent about 2 hours making dinner, followed by another 2 hours of cleanup (most nights). It was a full, exhausting day, but I was dedicated to having this important time together. It was worth it.

My conference was postponed when gathering mandates were enacted. I worked intensively during the next 6 months preparing for it. In the end, respecting my family’s concerns for bringing COVID home, I didn’t attend the rescheduled conference. I did accomplish a lot during those 10 months!

My husband and I remained committed to providing a roof over our children’s heads, keeping them safe, providing food for them. This is the kind of loving hospitality a parent willingly provides. Our school and work schedules changed somewhat during the summer, but we continued to gather.

Getting adequate rest was challenging for everyone! Focusing on our evening meal mission helped, especially in the face of adversity as satan attempted to disrupt our family’s lives. I realize now I was also battling burn-out, after launching my book RESTORING THE BROKEN PLACES IN AN UNFORGIVING WORLD.

We continued serving food, providing hospitality, love, wisdom, support and encouragement in the face of the unknown. I believe this is the heart of imperfect hospitality — offered in love, to encourage and give comfort. It is offered from the heart with the hope of comforting. In this situation it was my husband and I assuring our children of the beautiful future God has planned for them.

I’m grateful for every moment our family had during this challenging time. It was a blessing to serve them in this way. Living a faith-based life assures us our heavenly Father is greater than our circumstances. He is the solution to all pressing problems. In His undeniable love, He never leaves us to deal with challenges on our own. He brought our family through those dark days.

The beautiful future God planned for all of our children is dawning. We know our prayers are being answered in amazing ways for them!

Open your heart for gracious gatherings with imperfect hospitality.

OPEN YOUR HEART WITH THIS TOOLBOX FOR GRACIOUS GATHERINGS WITH IMPERFECT HOSPITALITY:

  • Preparing favorite meals and special foods for restricted diets and preferences is thoughtful and welcoming.
  • Give guests a taste of your family’s life by serving family favorites to new family members or visitors from other countries, along with a generous helping of backstory of why the dish is so popular or special memories associated with it.
  • Pray ahead for the gathering, asking each to be blessed.
  • Try to get rest beforehand.
  • Keep arrangements simple, so they are not all-consuming.
  • Focus on creating a warm, welcoming environment.
  • No matter how simple, offer it all in love.
  • Cover all (including your efforts) with grace — things don’t always turn out as planned!
  • Memories will be made through your efforts of graciously offered (yet) imperfect hospitality.

MORE:

The Bible provides guidance on opening our hearts and homes.

Are you (or someone you know) experiencing challenges in the wake of COVID? You May be interested in reading: How Are YOU… Really?

The Secret to Making a Real Difference

Some people believe we cannot “invest” ourselves in every relationship that comes our way. The main reason given for this is the perceived problem of available time to spend in relationship with others.

I disagree! In fact, it is unbiblical to live this way, and in this article I’m going to show you why all relationships matter, there’s no getting out of having one with others, even if you think you can (or are) and the secret to making a real difference in this world.

How we view “investing” in relationships impacts how we connect and interact with others. If you consider sitting down for the proverbial cup of coffee everyone always talks about, or sharing a meal with someone as your measurement for relational investment, you are right! Time, resources and ability to actually meet-up in real life (or virtually) add conditions that may never be met.

Case-in-Point: How many times have you parted after serendipitously crossing paths with someone, both agreeing to catch-up on an unspecified future date and never did? Each was sincere at that moment. You would love to spend time, to “invest” more in this relationship — but… it never happened. Does this mean you don’t have a real relationship with this person?

Next time — and likely there will be a next time — when your paths cross you sheepishly look at each other and sigh, knowing you failed in just making some time for them in your day (and they for you, in theirs). You smile, thinking how wonderful it will be and wholeheartedly long to get together, but life’s crazy schedules continue to crush the day, so setting aside a few minutes seems impossible.

There is a vast difference between developing relationships with a select few and having an impact with all you meet. It’s important to realize even with a chance meeting, a relationship has begun. Obviously with a deeper long-term relationship, more time is spent. However, even in a fleeting moment a lasting impact can be made on others through our interaction with them. This happens by how we live, walk out our faith, our words left with others, how they see us.

It may seem surprising, but those we meet in brief encounters often do remember. In over 20+ years of service, I have been blessed many times when those I’ve had the privilege of serving in ministry (or encountered in every day life) remind me of something I did or said — often in the moment — that made a real positive difference in their lives. Sometimes this grateful remembrance comes back to me by another messenger — my husband, family, friend or someone I met by chance who heard the story! I call this a double blessing!

Our example is Jesus. He had an inner circle of friends, yet left a living legacy globally through His impact, touching countless lives throughout His time here on earth continues today. Even those who were not His disciples developed a real, life-changing relationship with Jesus when they simply crossed paths with Him. They never had coffee or a meal together, but desired a real relationship — and had one with Him.

Case-in-Point: When Jesus risked asking a Samaritan woman at the well for a drink of water in John 4:1-30. Yes, He said He was thirsty, but probably could have drawn water himself. Instead, in that momentary encounter He sought to speak with the woman at the well. It was life-changing for her. She could draw water at the well, but was still thirsty. He told her of the living water, assured her He was the Messiah and told her how we (as believers) should worship and live.

If Christians endeavor to live as Jesus does, we mustn’t limit our relationships to only those we believe are tangible and important to us. If we allow it, often God brings us together with others who will change our lives, and those whom we may inspire, or encourage to live a more fulfilling life.

It is in those places where our lives are lived for God’s best with a heart dedicated to His purpose, we will have a positive impact in the world, or bless others. It is wonderful (but not required) to have a close-knit group of friends. When we live to serve God, accepting all of His blessings, our lives are to follow His ways, not go our own way. We do fulfill God’s purpose by ministering to others in the moment, serving however we can. Romans 12: 1-2 tells us how we can do this.

Having coffee with someone in need isn’t usually an option. Although they thirst, they need far more than that. Although they may be hungry their need is not often met at the local cafe. In this moment, the latest greatest burger, or extra cream and sugar are not priorities for them. A large latte doesn’t matter. I love what Romans 12: 9-13 says about serving others — it’s a big key for planner peeps — about the importance of being “inventive in hospitality.”

It is also a mistake to think that by being a believer our “relationship” with someone is going to solve all of their problems or needs, like a one-stop fix-it solution. We (nor any friendship outside of one with Jesus) is ever the answer for any of our needs. The answer always lies in Jesus.

Life and everything we encounter isn’t really all about us. Often we hear, speak, sing or think we want to be more like Jesus and much less of ourselves. If we really want to do this, in all of relationships, including any momentary chance meeting we must take the more of Jesus approach.

If we’re honest we don’t have all the answers. We do not know what tomorrow brings. We can’t imagine what’s in store for us today. A collaborative brainstorming session with our best earthly friend doesn’t always result in a satisfactory solution. But God’s Word has the answer to every problem or troubling situation. Time spent in deepening a relationship with Jesus goes a long way to resolving issues and challenges we encounter.

We cannot quench the world’s thirst for knowledge and understanding. We cannot keep the world fed. It’s astonishing to look around and see all the global efforts striving to do this. And still the needs remain — and continue to grow. In John 12:8a, Jesus told us there will always be poor people. He knows it. He could fix it, but it still exists. We are to do our part. We can help.

In our relationships we can begin to make the world better by reaching out and helping others, not waiting to make that coffee chat date. We may provide for needs with our time and resources, but Jesus’ point is the “needs” of all people are well beyond their hunger and thirst, and located well outside the sphere of our desire for meaningful relationships with only a select few.

It is all about Him and His provision (which never runs out ). He always has time for us. It’s all far less about “us” than we often allow ourselves to think and bemoan our pressing 24-7 time limitations as we make our stingy investment of a 2-hour one-time lunch date with a friend so we can check that off our list. We cannot single-handedly solve the world’s problems. Relying on Him, providing the encouragement and knowledge of Him to those in need, we can begin to make a lasting impact, as we wholeheartedly love from who we are, discover the beauty in everyone, and surprise them with goodness.

#RelationshipsMatter